Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Men's Adventure
Perhaps he should have tried to stay with her. No, that would have been pointless, and frustrating. Better to have met Sophia and enjoyed his brief freedom from danger and discomfort.
Irritated by the jostling late-night crowd, Revell turned into a side street, out of the press. It ran between anonymous glass-fronted office blocks.
The bellowing of drunks died away behind him, and he heard his own footsteps echo back from the reflective frontages. On each there seemed to be a softer, not quite synchronized doubled effect, as if his flickering shadow was just failing to keep pace with him.
If he was hearing things, then the wine definitely hadn't been watered. To clear his head, he looked up at the sky. The towers of glass swung back and forth overhead.
So he had drunk a skinful. What a pity that this was the first he knew of it, that he hadn't enjoyed the process more.
Dizziness made him stagger a half-step back. He pulled up abruptly as something hard and cold was shoved against the side of his neck, just below his ear.
“You should have accepted the offer, Major.” Steered by the pressing barrel of the pistol, Revell went slowly towards the darkened ramp leading to an underground service area. He prepared himself to turn as fast as he could, but suddenly the gun was no longer there.
“I think you were about to do something heroic, Major. For your abilities as a trained soldier, I have great respect. It would have been foolish of me to have remained too close. Even with a litre or two of wine inside you, I don't doubt your reactions would be much faster than mine.”
“So what happens now?” Very slowly, Revell turned to face the German. “I am not so foolish as to work alone either. My comrade is fetching our car. Ah, and here it comes. If you knew who was driving, I think you would be very surprised. This is such a sad world. There is so little loyalty.”
A Mercedes station wagon cruised slowly down the narrow street, until the edge of its dipped beams caught them. It pulled over to the curb and stopped. An audible ticking from its engine revealed that the diesel had not yet warmed up.
“You want me to get inside?”
“Oh no, Major. The transport is only for me. By the time you are found, I shall be far away. To the police, you will be no more than yet another unfortunate mugging victim. All too common an event in Munich at this time, I fear.”
The crack of the shot was whiplash sharp in the confines of the canyon of glass. A muzzle flash was reflected a thousand times in as many panes.
A scream replaced the report of the firing. At the roadside sprawled a figure, jack-knifing and straightening alternately in stomach-clasping agony.
Revell saw the outline of the vehicle's driver moving towards him, an automatic levelled. At his feet, Otto continued to squirm and screech in a widening pool of blood.
“That came as great a shock to him as I am a surprise to you, Major. Is that not the case?” Andrea swept back her long dark hair with her free hand. Casually aiming the Colt, she put a single round into the head of the wounded German.
There came a babble of confused shouting from the far end of the street. Hesitantly, but gaining courage as numbers increased, a mob was spilling towards them.
“So stupid they would walk toward gunfire.” Grabbing Revell, Andrea pulled him towards the car. “Do you want to stop and explain?”
Feeling as though he was being jerked out of a dream, Revell barely got the passenger door closed before the Mercedes was thrown through a controlled handbrake turn.
Facing back the way it had come, the station wagon fish-tailed as it roared from the scene towards the open end of the street.
“What sort of double cross is going on?” A thousand questions raced in Revell's mind. “Were you with that character? Working with him?”
“While it suited me to let him think so, yes. Where are you staying?” Revell told her. They had reached the junction with Briennerstrasse. Andrea braked hard to take the corner at a sensible speed that would not attract attention. Once out on the main road, she matched her driving style to the fast-moving streams of traffic.
“That murdering little creep offered me a couple of million to hand him the whole of the Special Combat Company on a plate tonight.”
At his feet, Revell noticed a case. He picked it up. The lock was broken. The bag was stuffed full of bundles of banknotes.
“Hell, he really meant it. When I wouldn't play ball with him, why didn't he simply go off and find another outfit? I can think of several up north that might well have taken him up on this sort of offer. And why try to bump me off? Didn't he like taking no for an answer?”
He looked at Andrea as she concentrated on her driving. Dressed casually but attractively in denim, no one could ever have told by looking at her that she had just killed, brutally and quite coldly.
Revell waited until they stopped for lights. “So what's your part in all this?” “He recruited me shortly after we arrived in the city. Everything there was to know about me, he knew. I was interested, so I let him think that I could be bought and blackmailed, and went along to see what would happen.”
“What happened was that you were damned near an accomplice to my murder.” “You were never in any danger.” Andrea did not bother to look to see the officer's expression, but did allow herself a tight smile of amusement. “Although he was very professional, like most men he was also a chauvinist. He did not take the precautions with me that he would have taken with a man. I thought there would be a moment when he would be dangerous, so when an opportunity presented itself, I made sure his pistol would not function.”
“Some professional. Are you trying to tell me that he didn't check his gun at any time tonight.”
“Oh no. In fact his last act before going into the restaurant was to check the magazine and action. But there are other ways to insure a weapon will not function correctly. The chewing gum I pushed up the barrel would have set quite hard.”
“Clever. He'd have blown away his face or his fingers, or both.” The effects of the drink were wearing off rapidly, but a steady throbbing persisted behind Revell's left temple. He found it hard to believe that Andrea had dried out during the last week. But she certainly didn't show any signs of having been drinking.
Andrea leaned hard on the horn as a taxi cut in front. “So, have you thought about what he was, who he was working for?”
Though he'd been speculating on that to himself, none of the answers Revell had come up with were all that satisfactory. “Gangsters, I suppose, possibly a black market mob.”
“Those were my thoughts, at first.” Turning into the parking lot of the major's hotel, Andrea drove around the side before parking in an obscure corner. “But he had too much information. It is true that some of the bigger gangs in the Zone are very well-organized, especially those involved in smuggling out refugees, but they would not have bothered to find out so much.”
“That leaves the possibility that he was working for the communists. A sleeper, a deep-cover agent?”
“Perhaps, or a freelance employed by them.” Turning off the engine, Andrea settled lower in her seat and peered out at the wall over the rim of the steering wheel. “Certainly he was one or the other. I realized that when it became obvious that he knew as much about my life before I deserted from the East German border guard, as afterwards. More, in fact.”
“Is that what sobered you up?” Revell was well aware that it would have taken exceptional circumstances to drag her away from the bottle. Discovering that her late masters knew her whereabouts might well have done it.
Andrea ignored the jibe. “If all along it was intended to be an assassination attempt, why all the elaborate trouble over so unimportant a target?”
“Thank you for that.” Revell knew what she meant though. The city was crawling with senior officers who populated the many service corps headquarters. You couldn't walk out of your front door without tripping over a general.
“Maybe bumping me off was an alternative plan. His main objective seemed to be getting the men out of the city as fast as possible. He and his bosses, or his controller, must have been upset when they lost me for those few days. Very likely they'd intended to contact me sooner, giving them longer to work on me. There would still have been the murder option, if they'd failed.”
Andrea looked at the car clock. “It is very strange. In a few hours, we will be out of the city anyway. Why was it so urgent to get us away that little bit sooner. What do they have planned for tonight?”
He hadn't expected Andrea to accept the invitation to his room. While she sat on the bed and spread the bundles of notes, he took a shower. Out of habit he locked the door of the bathroom, and he was cautious when he unfastened it.
Hard jets sluiced hot water over his body, making him gasp. Everything had moved so fast. He'd let her take him from the scene of the killing without thinking about it, as if suffering from a paralysis of will.
How much had he drunk that day? The fact that he couldn't remember indicated that it was a hell of a lot. Certainly more than the couple of bottles at the restaurant. The hand he gripped the shower control with, he let drop, allowing the water to flow for a while longer.
Perhaps he should allow her the benefit of the doubt, and attribute their hurried departure from the street to sound judgement on her part.
The approaching mob, doubtless with many drunks, would quickly have worked itself in to an excitable state. Especially at the sight of a soldier standing over a dead civilian. Some among them would have rapidly convinced themselves that they'd seen what had happened. Their garbled and lurid accounts to the police would have made a spell in detention virtually inevitable for the pair of them.
Pulling on a robe, he went back into the bedroom. Andrea was looking out of the window. The broken case lay on top of a bedside table. All of the cash had been carelessly crammed back inside.
“How much is there?”
“I could not be bothered to count it. More than a million marks I am sure, perhaps two.”
“Trusting sort our Otto, wasn't he, leaving it all with you.” Revell began gathering his clothing.
“He told me the case was booby-trapped. I had seen him close it and did not think he told the truth. I was right.”
Andrea turned and looked at Revell. “It is clear that you are not going to report the death. What do you have in mind for the money?”
His clothes bundled in his arms, Revell had intended to dress in the bathroom. Instead he dumped them on a chair, extracted his shorts from the pile, and pulled them on underneath his robe.
“I honestly hadn't given that a. thought. Have you any suggestions?” “Throw it away quickly. I have examined the notes. They are forgeries, and not even good ones. The federal German economy is in a poor way. If we are found with these, they will be harder on us than if we'd been convicted of Otto's murder.”
It must have been the drink that was preventing Revell's body responding to the situation. But if the alcohol could block a physical reaction, it couldn't subdue his feelings. He was crossing the room towards Andrea when there was a knock at the door.
“Could we have been followed?” Revell looked at Andrea as she took a small automatic pistol from a pocket of her denim jacket.
“Impossible. I kept a careful watch behind us. There was nobody.” “The Mercedes?”
“I do not think we can ever be traced from that. Off the road, it will be at least a week before it is even noticed.”
Covered by Andrea he opened the door. “Sophia!” “I forgot my perfume. I thought if I left it until tomorrow, one of the staff might ...”
She stopped when she saw Andrea, who was slow to pocket the pistol. Her reflex reaction was to look at the bed, and she saw the money.
Revell sensed she was about to go and pulled her firmly inside, closing the door behind her. “I'll get it for you. Where did you leave it? In the bathroom? I can't say I've seen it.”
Andrea sprawled across the bed. “Perhaps she didn't forget it. Perhaps she only came back because she wanted to see you one last time.”
“Try the top drawer of the dressing table”. Sophia didn't take another step into the room.
Revell noticed a brittle edge to her voice, as he searched for the bottle. He had begun to think Andrea right, when he found the vial of White Linen that had rolled to the back.
“I'm sorry, Sophia, but this isn't what you think.”-It was hard for him to know what to say. He'd never been any good at handling these sorts of situations. Not that he'd ever had any quite like this.
“No, it is I who am sorry.” Sophia looked directly at Andrea, who replied with a sardonic smile. “I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I am sure you are not paying her for any service. Apart from the fact that she'd never warrant the sort of price that money would suggest ...”
There was a broadening of Andrea's smile, as she derived genuine amusement from the sarcasm. The stupid overdressed bitch, thinking that saying that would get to her...
“... I've seen her sort before. There is no way she'd let a man put his cock between her legs, she'd prefer a...”
Anticipating Andrea's reaction, Revell managed to grab and restrain her before she could reach Sophia. The bottle of scent fell to the floor and spilled its contents across the carpet.
Looking down, Sophia spread the dampness through the pile with the toe of her expensive shoe. “There, it is in a good cause. If you cannot improve the company you keep, at least the room will smell better.”
With an effort of self-control, she went out, pulling, the door closed slowly and quietly. Once outside the room, she realized she was shaking. She had wanted to hurt, to provoke the woman, but she had never expected so violent a response.
Sophia had never seen violence unleashed like that before. The eyes that had blazed above the snarling mouth had turned a hard but beautiful face into a projection of hate and fury. In it she had read an urge and passion to kill.
Still shaking, she took the elevator to the lobby and went to the powder room. It was empty. She put her head over a wash basin and was violently sick.